Art Appreciation Boosts Stroke Recovery, Study Suggests

An appreciate for the arts could be a boon to stroke survivors, a new study suggests.

Research presented at the 12th Annual Spring Meeting on Cardiovascular Nursing shows appreciating art increases quality of life for stroke survivors, and stroke patients who find joy in music, theater and painting recover better than those who don't.

"These results shed light on the importance of lifelong exposure to art for improving the recovery process after a stroke," study researcher Dr. Ercole Vellone, assistant professor in nursing science at the University Tor Vergata in Rome, Italy, in a statement. "Introducing art into nursing care after stroke could help improve stroke survivors' quality of life."

Researchers conducted their study on 192 stroke survivors with an average age of 70. The study participants were asked whether they were art lovers or not (with art meaning music, painting and theater). Then, the researchers compared the quality of life between those who said they liked art (which was 105 of the patients) and those who said they didn't like it (87 of the patients).

The researchers found that the ones who reported liking art were also in better health than those who reported the opposite -- they had an easier time walking, were more energetic and less depressed, and felt happier and less anxious. Researchers found their memory and communication skills were also better.

"In our study, the 'art' group of patients showed a comparable clinical picture to the 'no art' group," Vellone said in the statement. "This is important because it means that patients belonging to the 'art' group had a better quality of life independently from the gravity of stroke. The results suggest that art may make long term changes to the brain which help it recover when things go wrong."

Recently, a study from researchers at University College London found that the same parts of the brain are stimulated when you look at art as when you are in love, the Telegraph reported. That's because the chemical dopamine is released into the part of the brain known for its function in promoting feelings of affection and desire.

That study involved brain scans of volunteers who looked at a series of 28 pictures, including images of great artwork like the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, the Telegraph reported.